Our long-time friends from Columbus, Brent and Aaron Long, joined Luke and me for a week-long water filter trip into the interior, west of Porto de Moz, along the Jaruacu River. We began the trip with 60 filters, each weighing near 300 lb, 60 sacks of fine sand (150 lb), 120 bags of gravel (20 lb), along with the filter accessories. I took an EMT pack of meds and tools, as well, as this would be the first time we combined attending to the health needs of these remote people with both filters and medicine. As you’ve read previously, these filters are quite remarkable. They will purify river water to close to 100% and kill the parasites and bacteria that cause a host of common diseases among the people of the Amazon Basin.
But they are heavy! It takes 4 – 6 men to get a filter from the boat, to a canoe, to the shore, up the bank to the house, up the steps or ladder (all river houses are on stilts), and into the house. We have a great team of young men who work hard making the filters three weeks/month and delivering them one week/month. After delivery, they brief the family on how the filter works, demonstrate the simple maintenance instructions and pray for the family. Most families are delighted and grateful to receive a filter. Those who are currently using the filters are thrilled with the results and word is spreading in this region as to their benefits.
At each place we stopped, we offered health care assistance. Many responded, asking for a "consultation". I saw about 300 people over the course of the week, a pretty typical number. We stopped at several small villages with 8 – 10 homes (which typically contain 2-3 families each) and I spent several hours at these villages. We stopped at many single homes, as well. I prayed for each person for their health care issue, and I asked God to draw close to them and I encouraged them to draw close to Him. Many people showed obvious signs of encouragement, from tears to smiles to hugs of gratitude. At one village in particular, we arrived to a cold, hard welcome and left the next evening sensing warmth and gratitude. Love, without strings, is truly a transforming agent in both people and communities.
The health care was varied and included removing some shrapnel from the arm of a man on his kitchen table as well as treating various infectious, parasitic, traumatic, arthritic and other medical conditions. We also gave reading glasses to four older adults who were absolutely thrilled to be able to see at close range again.
One highlight of the trip was spending an hour with a husband and wife who are grieving a still-born baby, born 10 days prior. It was a sober joy to be able to listen to them share their hearts and hurts and to speak encouragement and freedom to grieve. I discouraged any sense of fault or blame and encouraged them to see God’s provision for them in the midst of a situation that challenges their understanding. I was able to pray with each individually and with them together, encouraging them to seek the comfort of the only One who can truly comfort.
Another highlight involved Brent, Aaron, Luke and me and 6-7 locals loading 20,000 bricks from ground to truck and from truck to boat. It was a long day and one we all will not soon forget!
It was such a pleasure to work alongside Brent and to share with each other our struggles and joys with family, work, and our walks with Jesus. It was nice for Luke to be able to do the same with Aaron, as Luke’s adjustment to Porto de Moz is taking some time, and spending some time with an old friend was therapeutic.
The group of Brasilians working with us was hard-working, gracious with our language deficiencies, and a lot of fun. We were able to fish in the evenings and early mornings and caught many very nice fish (which we ate at about every meal).
Between the filters and the medicine, it was a tiring, though quite satisfying, trip. It is so nice to be able to be used for others’ benefit and for the kingdom. It’s nice to be in a position to distribute resources provided by so many caring people in the States. The work that Thirst Relief International is doing in providing these filters to remote river people is beautiful. The health care that I can provide by purchasing medicine with the money that you send is making such a difference in these people who lead truly difficult lives. The eternal seeds that we are able to plant all over this region will mature in His time. We trust in our Father’s ability and desire to use us and to use you, to bring people into an everlasting, intimate, love relationship with Him.